More than a dozen heavily armed soldiers wearing fatigues and skeleton masks took over Burkina Faso’s state television late on Friday night to announce the country’s second coup d’etat this year.
A spokesman for the group said Captain Ibrahim Traore, a 34-year-old military official, is the new leader of the country, ousting President Paul-Henri Damiba, who himself came to power following a coup in January.
"We have decided to take our responsibilities, driven by a single ideal: the restoration of security and integrity of our territory," Capt. Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho said in a statement on RBT television.
The officer also announced the closure of borders, as well as the dissolution of the constitution and the government. He urged people to go about their day in peace, and said the military had removed the junta leader on the basis that he had failed to fight and prevent jihadist attacks in the country.
Separately, Mr Traore said on Saturday that Mr Damiba had taken refuge at a French army base and that he was planning a counter-offensive from there. The French Embassy has denied any involvement.
Islamist insurgents have rattled the troubled West African nation in recent years, targetting communities that formed local civil defense groups.
Last year, human rights markedly deterioated in Burkina Faso with attacks on civilians carried out by Islamist fighters, and unlawful killings by state security forces and pro-government militias, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
News of attacks on civilians are a regular occurence, with 50 civilians reported missing and 11 soldiers killed last month in a suspected jihadist attack near the northern town of Djibo.
The African Union urged the new government to refrain from committing acts of violence or from threatening the civilian population.
Rounds of gunshots and a large convoy of military vehicles with armed security forces were seen in the capital Ouagadougou just hours after the announcement.
However, the coup has been largely celebrated by residents. One person told BBC News: “We have prayed to God for it to be a coup d’etat. He is more interested in hurting us in front of the entire world.”
Habibata Rouamba, a trader and activist, also praised the move, stating that Damiba had failed the country. “Since he came to power, the zones that were peaceful were attacked. He took power but then he betrayed us.”